Food & Drink

The Definitive Guide to the Best BBQ in New York City

Updated On 06/09/2017 at 02:15PM EST Updated On 06/09/2017 at 02:15PM EST
the best bbq new york city
Blue Smoke | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Mighty Quinn's

East Village

Anybody who’s ever walked along 2nd Ave past 7th and 6th knows the smell: that smoked meat scent that permeates through the walls of Mighty Quinn’s, even in the colder months when the door and windows are kept closed. As with many of the city’s top barbecue spots, food is served fast casual-style here (order from behind the counter, collect your trays, and take your seat), but what makes this place, which started out as a stand at Smorgasburg, different from the rest is the authentic smoky flavor, as detectable in each bite of pulled pork, juicy brisket, and fatty brontosaurus rib as the smell is through the building. While a lot of barbecue in the city can verge on artificial smokey flavor, Mighty Quinn’s tastes like real barbecue, so much so that the fall-apart tender brisket requires zero sauce -- it’s simply perfect. And don’t forget to order a side of burnt end baked beans. -- Lucy Meilus, New York editor

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Hometown Bar-B-Que

Red Hook

If you're looking for the city's most authentic Texas-style brisket and beef ribs, you should go to Hometown. If you're looking for Vietnamese hot wings or a lamb belly bánh mì... you should also go to Hometown! It's pretty safe to say that Billy Durney is New York's current 'cue king -- and despite being schooled by Texas masters in the elusive alchemy of salt-and-pepper-only brisket (Hometown's legitimately rivals the top Austin joints), he didn't stop there with the menu at his roadhouse-y cavern in deep Red Hook. Much of it was influenced by Billy's youth eating from Vietnamese, Caribbean, and other international food carts along Flatbush Ave: that bánh mì and those wings, plus other happy turns like pulled pork tacos. Even the preferred street fair of over-consuming New Yorkers, the Feast of San Gennaro, gets a nod, via deep-fried Oreo ribs. Just kidding! It's a hand-stuffed sausage parmesan hero. But hey, if anyone could pull off fried Oreo ribs... -- Ben Robinson, chief creative officer 

Courtesy of Daisy May's

Daisy May's

Hell’s Kitchen

Amongst the car dealerships on 11th Ave is Daisy May’s, an OG barbecue oasis, founded in 2003 by Adam Perry Lang (of Daniel and Le Cirque), and known for its wood-paneled walls littered with horseshoes and trophies, and its specialty Memphis-style dry-rubbed ribs. Lang has since left the operation, but the ribs remain exceptional -- tender and smoky, a little sticky, and perfectly pink in hue, served on a styrofoam plate. The brisket is a solid move as well: fatty, juicy slices of beef topped with just a touch of barbecue sauce. The greatest thing about Daisy May’s? The bounty of latex gloves and plastic bibs supplied to diners. You’ll need them. -- LM

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Ducks Eatery

East Village

You may not want to get the whole goat neck, for a variety of reasons, but you should absolutely get the whole goat neck. Smoke-maven Will Horowitz doesn't do anything resembling standard BBQ at his brick-walled East Village party-box -- which also features impressive cocktails and a nice beer roster that's not trying too hard -- and the curry-heavy neck that falls right off the (rather large) bone is Ducks' most memorable representation of that ethos. Tuesday nights bring a perfectly fatty brisket sandwich, but even that most traditional of BBQ meats comes piled high with ricotta. Different can be good. In Ducks' case, it's often superb. -- BR

Courtesy of Mable's Smokehouse

Mable's Smokehouse

Williamsburg

Mable’s honky tonk charm (think picnic tables and mismatched chairs) is a nod to husband-and-wife owners Jeff Lutonsky and Meghan Love’s respective hometowns (he’s from Oklahoma, she’s from Kentucky), and it’s easy to feel outside of Williamsburg when you’re here. The sliced brisket is hands down the best thing on the menu -- lean with just the right amount of fat, and smoky to the point where sauce is not required (though the tangy but sweet house sauce with vinegar is quite good). But go with a friend because the tender St. Louis-style ribs are also a must, and arrive actually falling off the bone and brushed with just enough house sauce. Order at the counter and take a seat -- your food will arrive before you can even scroll through two posts of your Instagram feed. -- LM

Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue

Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue

Gowanus

Everything at Fletcher’s is very modern, pristine, and carefully considered -- from the structural light fixtures, to the Texas pit that the smoking is done on, to the all-natural, hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats from farm co-ops. But just because things are a little more dressed up here, doesn’t mean it isn’t serious barbecue. Incorporating aspects of different regional styles, Fletcher’s churns out equally great platters and sandwiches, all delivered on metal trays lined with brown butcher paper. The dry-rubbed St. Louis pork ribs are excellent, but the must-try items are the smoky and perfectly seasoned burnt ends, and the slightly sweet, slightly salty Asian-inspired char siu pork steak (a departure from an otherwise traditional American barbecue menu, but a welcome one nonetheless). Also, make sure to order the chili mac & cheese, which includes actual chunks of brisket. -- LM

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Blue Smoke

Flatiron & Battery Park City

Danny Meyer's meat temple might mean more to the art of low-and-slow smoking in New York than any other restaurant: it was the first to firmly position BBQ on a truly grand stage, drove the creation of the BBQ-for-the-people Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, and has always believed that an array of regional styles can Voltron together to create "New York barbecue." Executive chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois, who started smoking there in 2014, has certainly continued down that path -- and while the Battery Park City location especially has turned towards a more pan-Southern-food approach with highlights other than just straight up BBQ and its required traditional sides, if you leave without taking down a half-rack of baby back ribs, it had better only be because they're sold out for the night. -- BR

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Hill Country BBQ

Flatiron

Modeled after the famed Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, which known for its brisket, this Flatiron honky-tonk (with a second location in Downtown Brooklyn) gets its brisket right, too, by smoking it over post oak from Texas for super fatty and moist results. Kreuz is big on the fact that it doesn’t offer any forks or sauce, and while forks are certainly available at Hill Country, sauce is indeed scarce (found only on the market chicken, which is less memorable than the fantastic brisket). Hill Country is huge, with two floors, lots of tables, different stations where you order your food, and a stage for live music. It certainly resembles Central Texas (at least, as much as a spot in Flatiron can), right down to the brown butcher paper that your meat arrives on. -- LM

Courtesy of Daniel Krieger/Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Harlem

Still one of the most buzzed-about barbecue spots in the city (the original opened in Syracuse in the ‘80s, and there’s another location in Gowanus), John Stage’s joint doesn’t look to one single region for inspiration, instead combining different flavor profiles for tender beef brisket, juicy pork ribs coated in a sweet sauce, and the restaurant's real standout item: spice-rubbed, pit-smoked, char-grilled barbecue chicken wings. There are a number of sauce options to choose from, including an especially fiery sauce aptly called Devil’s Duel, but the garlic Chipotle is always a winner. -- LM

Courtesy of Clay Williams

Arrogant Swine

East Williamsburg

There isn’t a ton of Carolina-style barbecue in New York, and this East Williamsburg/Bushwick spot, which started as a summertime pop-up, is the answer to all your whole hog prayers. Arrogant Swine is very bare bones -- most of the space is taken up by the bar -- and it resembles a beer hall more than a barbecue joint, which was exactly what pitmaster Tyson Ho wanted. Beer plays a big role here (there’s always lots of unique crafts on tap), but the whole hog is what you’re coming for -- pulled pork with just the right balance of sweet and sour flavor. The other speciality here is the Western North Carolina Outside Brown, or pork shoulder, cut into chunks with lots of great smoky taste. The menu also features what is truly the best iteration of barbecue joint mac and cheese in New York: the mac and cheese waffle (yes, that is mac and cheese pressed in a waffle iron). -- LM

Flickr/Premshree Pillai

Fette Sau

Williamsburg

It means “fat pig” in German, and it will do whatever it can to make you the same thing in English. Sporting a run of outdoor picnic tables leading to what’s essentially a cinder block garage filled with hungry Brooklynites who wait in line to select their by-the-pound meats, Fette Sau does everything exceptionally well, and some things exceptionally-er well. The beef ribs will make you feel like a caveman gourmand, an espresso-inflected rub gives the tender pork belly a unique kick, and the charred, fatty top layer of the brisket will melt in your mouth, which is unfortunate -- it’d be better if it just stayed there for, well, ever. -- BR

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John Brown Smokehouse

Long Island City

Josh Bowen’s ode to his hometown of Kansas City is probably as no-frills as New York barbecue gets. In fact, this space with its red checkered table cloths and outdoor picnic tables is arguably kind of frilly for John Brown’s, as up until 2012, it was housed in a much smaller space on 37th and Crescent Ave, with just a few tables and no patio whatsoever. Food is ordered at the counter, behind which sits a chalkboard menu that you can simply ignore: the dry-rubbed pulled pork and fatty ribs are great, but you’re here for burnt ends, that Kansas City specialty. They’re exceptionally smokey and tender, and you could probably eat an entire platter to yourself in one sitting. The cornbread is also a must-order, as is the mac and cheese, which has a nice crusty top and isn’t drowning in too much sauce. -- LM